Wednesday, January 18, 2012



The New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands at The Metropolitan Museum of Art are not overrun with examples of the boteh or paisley motif, but what is found is outstanding. As with the Mughal flask of last post, I was onto a needle-in-a-palace search, this time for an 19th-century silver turban ornament from Iran's Qajar period, a richly gilded and wire-filigree patterned oval with applied enamels,  a pearl center and a boteh on top.

The area's small Edward C. Moore Collection room had been first overlooked in the walk round and round.  There are several rooms for private collections, each with its own door.  And the Moore Collection houses one of them.  Mr. Moore, a 19th-century New Yorker, had been the owner of the ornament.

It seems that all kinds of important men have worn some style of head wrap over the ages to set themselves apart from commoners.  A power look in Renaissance Florence appears to have included the loosely-tied head coverings certain well-connected men threw on for profile portraits that are now on display in another of the Met's second-floor exhibits.  The princes of the church had their full vocabulary of miters with trailing streamers and beanies. And the Arab royals had their perfect turbans, many times with head ornaments that held  big, fluffy feathers that tended to curl into the boteh shape at the top of royal heads.

It could be conjectured that because of 15th-century Florence's interest in eastern textiles, scholarship and culture,  the Renaissance capital had been loving the head-wrap look.  But it was the Arab regal who would have won the Global Style Award for his perfectly wrapped turban topped with a beautiful ornament and maybe an attention-getting feather bobbing ever so slightly as he spoke. JP

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


In the mid 17th century, this flask was made for a Mughal and 
decorated with a motif including emerald boteh.

A Dec. 27 Wall Street Journal story headlined "The Year's Best Arts Adventure" told me a few things I hadn't considered. There are 1,200 objects on view at the New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia that opened in November at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And that these galleries have a collection of 12,000 objects to show us over time, enough to be a museum all its own.

Approaching the museum recently, I was entranced by a huge poster photo on one of its advertising kiosks. There was this giant Mughal flask covered with rich dots of rubies and enamels, traceries of gold and yes, the most perfect emeralds carved into boteh or teardrop motifs. Once inside the exhibit, it became my focused mission to locate that flask which turned out to be maybe seven inches tall at most.

One could marvel the whole afternoon at the gentle rock crystal carved into a mango shape and detailed with the probably-impossible-to-duplicate design fit for a Mughal emperor. I wondered what the owner carried in his flask-- an essence for fragrance or for his health? A clear liquid essence might turn the magical design into a variety of patterns at each new perspective, in each kind of light. I would think that candlelight would be best. The mango shape would be soft in the hand and reminiscent of the beloved boteh, sometimes referred to as a mango motif. The museum signage places the Mughal period from 1526 to 1858 and the flask at mid 17th century.

Whoever that Mughal owner was, I am sure he was an even finer person whenever he looked at his exquisite flask, and if he was anything like Akbar The Great, (1542 to 1605), perhaps humbled by its great artistry. JP